Red beacons are set to be banished from Indian roads, with the Centre on Wednesday announcing that from May 1, all vehicles carrying VIPs, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's car, will not be allowed to sport what has become a symbol of a culture of privilege among the political class.
Responding to a tweet about the decision, the Prime Minister wrote: "Every Indian is special. Every Indian is a VIP." Following the announcement, Rajasthan, Odisha, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat also announced their support and compliance to the announcement.
"From May 1, no red beacon
will be allowed atop any official vehicle. There will be no exceptions," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. The decision was taken by Prime Minister Modi, who informed the Cabinet about it.
While the Chhattisgarh government did not issue any immediate statement, the state's chief minister, Raman Singh, has been travelling without a red beacon
for the past eight years. Back in 2009, Singh had decided to take the red beacon
off his vehicle. However, he did not impose the same on his ministers and left it to their individual discretion. (Read more
In more immediate terms, the move comes weeks after the two chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab decided against the use of the red beacon, often referred to derisively as a lal batti, on their official cars.
States respond with alacrity
Following the decision, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
announced that he would not use a red beacon
on his car. Chouhan also assured that other ministers would follow the decision. (Read more
While not an ally of the Modi government -- the Bharatiya Janata Party recently launched its push in his state -- Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik followed suit and ordered the removal of red beacons from the cars of all VVIPs in the state with immediate effect. Patnaik also took the red beacon
off his official car. (Read more
The BJP government in Rajasthan also banned the use of beacons by ministers and officers following the Centre's announcement. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje took to Twitter to voice her support for the move, writing: "Curtailing the use of #RedBeacon is a welcome and forward looking step towards having more people-friendly Government. #EveryoneVIPinNewIndia." (Read more
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani welcomed the decision to remove and announced that it would be implement it in Gujarat soon (Read more
). In the wake of the decision, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis removed the red beacon
from his car and welcomed the decision on Twitter (Read more
). Emulating the Prime Minister, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar
removed the red beacon
from his official car. He also instructed his colleagues and Cabinet ministers to do the same. (Read more
Only emergency vehicles to sport beacons
Vehicles involved in emergency and relief and rescue services, ambulances, and fire services, will, however, be allowed to put blue beacons, the minister said. Jaitley said the government will bring about the necessary amendment to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, in this regard. (Read more
"Rule 108 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says the Centre and states can specify dignitaries who can use beacons on their (official) vehicles. It is a central rule and is being abolished from the rule book," Jaitley said.
Asked if there would be exceptions like the President or the Prime Minister for the use of red beacon
on their cars, Jaitley said there can't be any exceptions "when the rule itself is not there in the rule book". The minister said that Rule 108 (2) that empowers the Centre and state governments to use blue beacons with flasher is also being changed. "Only defined emergency services will be allowed to use blue beacons with flasher," Jaitley added.